A Brief Introduction to the Equestrian Ballet of Jerez

| © Dominic Alves/Flickr
Mark Nayler

A visit to the stately and elegant western Andalusian town of Jerez is worth it in its own right, but particularly famous are the displays of horsemanship put on by the city’s prestigious Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, or Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. In fact, to describe these breathtaking equestrian ballets solely as displays of formidable horsemanship is slightly misleading, because the horses are no slouches either.

The Andalusian horse – Pura Raza Española – has long been one of the most sought-after breeds in Europe, its agility and noble temperament making it the warhorse of choice for many armies over the centuries. Every year, the Royal School selects the finest foals from the region’s thoroughbred Andalusian studs and trains them for four years. During this time they are coached in classical dressage, Spanish “cowboy” – i.e. cattle herding – dressage, carriage-pulling and other typically equestrian work.

Amazing feats of horsemanship are to be seen in Jerez’s equestrian ballets

This is not just to keep alive the quintessentially Andalusian tradition of refined horsemanship, but in order to prepare the animals for performing in one of Spain’s most popular shows – “How the Andalusian Horses Dance”, staged by the Royal School throughout the year in its purpose-built 1,600 seat-arena.

And the name is no exaggeration. This spectacular 90-minute equestrian ballet takes place every Tuesday and Thursday – and Fridays in August and September – at noon and is likely to be one of the most memorable things you will see on a visit to southern Spain. Each stage is set to classical Spanish music and the riders dress in the traditional 18th century riding costumes that are also much on display during Jerez’s enchanting May Horse Fair, “Feria del Caballo”.

Andalusia’s beautiful horses are also on display during Jerez’s annual Horse Fair

Some of the most virtuoso feats of horsemanship are to be seen in the demonstration of Doma Vaquera, or Spanish cowboy riding techniques, in which the rider holds in one hand a long lance used for cattle herding or branding and thus has only one hand free to control his spirited colleague. This is even more impressive – and cooler – than it sounds, and is far from a celebration of a skill set now superseded by machinery: on cattle farms and bull-breeding ranches throughout Andalusia today, these incredible techniques remain an essential component of the “cowboy’s” repertoire.

The rest of show is hardly less astonishing. Displays of classical dressage techniques and of work “in hand” – the name given to routines in which the horseman commands his steed on foot with the use of long reins – display the strength, agility and elegance of the Andalusian throughbred as well as the skills of the riders. Indeed, this show is about the harmony that is possible between man and horse as much as it is about the techniques of the former or the physical prowess of the latter.

An equestrian display at the Jerez Horse Fair

For an opportunity to admire the stars of this iconic show close-up, Jerez’s annual feria in May (this year it runs from May 13–20) is an absolute must. The colorful and gently hedonistic Feria del Caballo (“Horse Fair”) is one of southern Spain’s best ferias and, as is fitting for a city so steeped in equine culture, it centers around the region’s thoroughbred stallions. Throughout the day, they can be admired on the fairground as their traditionally-clad riders trot from marquee to marquee enjoying glasses of the sweet local sherry – another hallmark of Jerez culture.

Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, Av. Duque de Abrantes, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, +34 956 31 96 35

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article